China’s admiration of outstanding scholars has turned the well-preserved childhood home of TuYouyou, the Chinese pharmacologist who won this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine,into a popular tourist destination.
Since it was announced on Monday that 84-year-old Tu had become the first Chinese citizen to win the international prize, her former home in the old town of Ningbo, Zhejiang province, has attracted visitors, especially parents and their children-even though it is not open to the public.
The house, which is for sale, is part of a complex of 37 traditional buildings, including several city-and district-level cultural relic preservation sites, that have been transformed into a high-end art and commercial zone.
Tu won the prize for developing a lifesaving malaria drug, artemisinin, a staple of traditionalChinese medicine, which has helped save millions of lives across the globe.
"There are continually parents taking their children, from infants in strollers to college students, totake photos in front of Tu’s former home. Security guards have been ordered to go on patrol around the clock," said a sales person surnamed Zhao, from Ningbo Real Estate Inc Co.
Shanghai resident Xu Lingfei, who was on a trip to Ningbo, took her 9-year-old son to walk around the complex on Wednesday.
"Chinese people believe in exams and awards and have a strong preference for high performers. Taking children to visit the former dwelling places of celebrities is a way to inspire them to study harder," Xu said.
Something similar happened after Mo Yan won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2012.
Tourists started visiting Mo’s former home in rural Gaomi, Shandong province, in an endless stream starting the day after he won the prize. Some even plucked the radishes planted in front of the house and carted away some bricks.
Tu’s former residence, where she lived until she went to university in Beijing, covers an area of2,200 square meters and is priced at 150 million yuan ($23.6 million).
The house was built by her maternal grandfather, Yao Yongbai, who was once a member of the Ningbo General Chamber of Commerce and a professor at Shanghai’s Fudan University. It is owned by her uncle Yao Qingsan, an economist and former president of the Ningbo-Hong Kong Fellowship Association.
Another site that has become a bigger tourist draw these days thanks to Tu’s success is the Luofu Mountain scenic area in Huizhou, Guangdong province, where Ge Hong, a TCM master of the Eastern Jin Dynasty (AD 317-340) picked herbs, developed herbal medicines and wrote the classic Manual of Clinical Practice and Emergency Remedies.
After winning the Lasker Award in the United States in 2011, Tu said she and her team were inspired by Ge’s theory to solve the puzzle in extracting artemisinin from the herb Artemisia annual, also known as sweet wormwood.
A garden and a monument on Luofu Mountain commemorate Ge’s dedication. The mountain is home to 3,000 species of plants, including more than 1,200 with medicinal uses.